Interview: Terence Stamp

25 February 2013

Siana Bangura talks to the actor about family, love and playing the ‘ordinary’ man….

It’s 5:30 p.m. and I have a date. Not only is this a ludicrously early time for an intimate meeting but the man with whom I am about to engage in conversation is a very special one – Terence Stamp. Tanned, silver, stubbly and still extremely attractive at 74, he oozes old-school sophistication even in socks and sandals; every bit the English gent, he’s truly deserving of his reputation as one of Britain’s most stylish men.

As I wait a few moments, suffering with the flu and sniffling, fighting with my roll of toilet tissue, his manager comes over to me and leads me to Mr. Stamp. He gets up and kisses me on both cheeks.

We chit-chat about the little things in life for a while; I am struck by how softly spoken he is. He asks me about myself and tells me how much he likes my college, Peterhouse, despite us not allowing him to buy a fancy block of flats on our land in Albany. We trade laments over being goalkeeper for college teams, and he jokes about never making it to Oxbridge, much to his mother’s despair. We then get started with the interview proper.

He makes himself comfortable and turns to face me, eager and enthusiastic. I can see every line of laughter across his finely chiselled face and I am reminded why, in his younger days, women fell at his feet.

Stamp is well-known for being picky about the parts he chooses to play. He was at first reluctant to play Arthur in his latest film, Song for Marion, because he felt that the character was ‘too ordinary’. Being the stylish, sophisticated, and often expensive man he is, the prospect of playing a man with no pizzazz frightened him at first: “I’m not that good at playing ‘ordinary'”.

But the on-screen relationship Arthur has with his son James (Christopher Eccleston) is cold, distant and awkward, and reminded Stamp of his relationship with his own father, Tom.

In fact, he bases Arthur almost entirely on Tom, from style to countenance and mannerisms. Stamp recounts the way that Tom expressed little affection towards him, although he still knew that he was loved. He praises his father’s style: “He was a poor man, and so when he bought a tie, it had to be the best tie, because it would have cost him a week’s money”.

Stamp has a wicked sense of humour, which he says he inherited from his father. He makes a few jokes about his ex-wife (“I should have known that I had met my future ex-wife”) and being a “dunce” who made it to grammar school.

Endearingly, he is as self-deprecating as he is confident. From the way Stamp speaks about his career, it is clear he’s a true artist: “Art is timeless, and if you are good at what you do, you will be respected.”

Stamp makes a habit of entering movie theatres towards the end of his films and observing the audience watching him on the big screen. Most recently with Song for Marion, he felt “choked up” when the audience started clapping for Arthur after his solo, explaining: “I am often struck by how the audience engages with a film.”

As Stamp’s manager signalled for me to wrap up the party, I remembered that Stamp had an exciting circle of famous friends,

including Michael Caine.

They lived together for a few years in their youth: “Our time together was wonderful. He was like my life guru. We don’t see each other anymore now that we’re famous, but I’ll always remember our time together.”

I ask Stamp to tell me with a few words what ‘love’ means to him. I am treated to one more long and thoughtful pause, and then Terence Stamp tells me: “Love is work made visible.”

He kisses me goodbye (on both cheeks, of course) and wishes me luck in my exams next term.

Before I leave he asks me what my star sign is: I’m a Virgo and he is a Capricorn. “I’ve had some wonderful Virgo girlfriends in my time, Siana.”

As I leave Hotel du Vin with a big smile on my face, I realise that, for the first time all day, I’ve just spent twenty minutes free of my flu.